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Tom Brady explains why he thinks ‘there’s a lot of mediocrity in today’s NFL’

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Though he largely avoided making controversial comments during his legendary career, a retired Tom Brady is already showing he isn’t afraid to make bold claims.

During a recent interview with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, Brady — who also shared his thoughts on the possibility of the Patriots without Bill Belichick — unleashed a bold take about the current state of the league.

“I think there’s a lot of mediocrity in today’s NFL,” Brady claimed. “I don’t see the excellence that I saw in the past.”

Asked why he thinks that, Brady began by listing a few factors.

“I don’t think the coaching is as good as it was,” he explained. “I don’t think the development of the young players is as good as it was. The rules have allowed a lot of bad habits to get into the actual performance of the game. I just think the product, in my opinion, is less than what it’s been.”

Ironically, considering that Brady played quarterback — a position the NFL has increasingly tried to protect from overly physical defenders — Brady cited the diminished intimidation factor from defenders.

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“I look at a lot of players like Ray Lewis and Rodney Harrison and Ronnie Lott, guys that impacted the game in a certain way,” he told Smith. “Every hit they would have made would have been a penalty. You hear coaches complaining about their own player being tackled.”

The 46-year-old suggested coaches focus on their own team more than trying to get favorable calls.

“Why don’t they talk to their player about how to protect themselves?” he asked. “We used to work on the fundamentals of those things all the time. Now they’re trying to be regulated all the time. Offensive players need to protect themselves. It’s not up to a defensive player to protect an offensive player. A defensive player needs to protect himself. I didn’t throw the ball to certain areas because I was afraid players were gonna get knocked out. That’s the reality.”

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To make his point, Brady again cited Lewis, the former Ravens linebacker.

“I didn’t throw it to the middle when I played Ray Lewis because he’d knock them out of the game and I couldn’t afford to lose a good player.”


Hayden Bird can be reached at hayden.bird@globe.com.